The true meaning of mobile matters

In the last week, RichRelevance introduced the US and UK versions of our Shopping Insights™ Q1 Mobile Study to the market with some fascinating findings around the rapid adoption and usage of mobile devices in e-commerce:

In the US, for instance, mobile purchases as a percentage of overall e-commerce have doubled in the last year from 1.9% in April 2011 to 4.6% in March 2012. Interestingly, the iPad is driving nearly all shopping, browsing and purchasing in this emerging channel and iPad shoppers here in the US, in March 2012, actually spent more than desktop users—five dollars more per order than the AOV of desktop users of $153.

By comparison, UK shoppers are blazing the trail for mobile shopping. UK mobile shopping is double that of their American counterparts, with mobile shopping representing just over nine percent of all e-commerce sales. The bulk of that mobile e-commerce revenue (more than 80%) is from purchases made on the iPad. Interestingly, the highest average order values, in March 2012, originated from the iPhone—$24 more than iPad shoppers and nearly $28 more than desktop shoppers.

These numbers are not just interesting, but they are telling a story about the ways in which consumers are embracing the freedom that mobile devices provide them in the ability to shop anytime, anywhere. Our Shopping Insights team believes that the difference between the mobile shoppers in the US and the UK has a lot to do with how we “live” in these two countries.

In the US, we are a car-and-couch culture; the majority of us drive to work, so using our mobile devices to and from the office or school is not an option. But when we do get a chance to shop, it’s often a relaxing event often taking place in front of the TV or even later at night in bed (iPad evening usage, from 8pm to 11pm, account for 26% of all iPad shopping sessions). This is also suggested by products iPad users frequently purchase in the US: fitness equipment, home furnishings and outdoor supplies. These are “aspirational” purchases, no doubt influenced by what is being seen on TV and the ability to relax with the device.

In the UK, it’s a different situation; while the iPad is squarely driving the majority of e-commerce sales, the fact that, in March, the iPhone is where the highest AOV occurs is very telling of the culture that is even more mobile than the US (a recent Times article revealed that there are more mobile phones in the UK than there are residents—62.5M, to be exact). Britons order everything online, from groceries to electronics and (according to our study) that includes large-ticket items purchased on a smartphone.

What does this mean for online retailers? It’s rather simple—or complex—depending on how you look at it. Simple from the standpoint that we must recognize our customers are engaging with us in the channel that best suits their needs at that moment. So as we have always said, put the customer at the center of your thinking and the business strategies become ultra-clear. The more complex initiative is the mandate to maintain different versions of your ecommerce site for each platform that a shopper wishes to use. Shopping on a smartphone is vastly different than shopping from a desktop. It’s incumbent on retailers to think about screen size, the form factor, ease of use—all aspects of the customer experience. That’s equally the case with the iPad, but there is also an opportunity to more directly engage with customers via catalog-style presentation of retail goods and services.

As we approach mass adoption, retailers must adapt their strategies to build specific interfaces to meet the needs of this emerging segment and the capabilities of the technology. You know, Steve Jobs did a remarkable job in building a mobile platform that consumers have embraced—the more retailers take advantage of this opportunity, the more relevant and lasting their brand will be to today’s shopper.

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ABOUT Diane Kegley
As Chief Marketing Officer, Diane is responsible for driving global demand and visibility for RichRelevance’s personalization and brand advertising opportunities – including corporate marketing, public relations, analyst relations, brand strategy, client marketing, advertising and business development. Diane has spent the last 20 years leading multichannel marketing, media and branding initiatives for companies like American Express, AOL, CNET, American Airlines, HP, Lockheed Martin, and Sprint. To view Diane's full profile, click here.
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